Microsoft says Windows 8, its forthcoming version of Windows designed for tablets, laptops, and desktops, is in the final stages of development. It says its hardware partners are on schedule to ship the first Windows 8 devices during the holiday season.
But those hardware makers, including Asus, Acer, Dell, MSI, and Lenovo, aren't just making regular laptops and tablets for the operating system. They've been building computers with unique shapes, sizes and form factors to take advantage of how Windows 8 is built for touch as well as for a keyboard and mouse. (Check out our guide to Windows 8 here.)
What does that mean? Well, that some of the craziest looking computers are being made as you read this. Some have folding screens, some have sliding screens, some have two screens. Here's a glimpse at five types of Windows 8 computers that are on the way. This looks to just be the tip of the iceberg.
|Tablets with detachable keyboards|
This is likely to be the most popular type of Windows 8 device. Companies such as Acer, Asus, Toshiba and others are creating tablets that dock with a keyboard to turn them into mini-laptops. This week Acer announced the Iconia W5100, which has a 10.1-inch screen, and Asus announced a number of tablet / keyboard products, including the Tablet 810 with an 11.6-inch screen. In most cases, the keyboard base has an additional battery inside, so it can charge the tablet when docked.
|Laptops with touch screens|
Because Windows 8 is also meant to be a regular laptop and desktop operating system -- not just for tablets -- there will also be regular laptops with touch screens. Intel is investing in touch technology for ultrabooks to help move along the process. The Acer Aspire S7 is one of the first of this genre to be introduced. It's a 13.1-inch ultrabook (or really thin computer), but has a full HD touch screen. Of course, if you don't want to reach out and touch the screen it has a full backlit keyboard and touchpad. The aluminum unibody laptop also has Acer's Twin Air cooling system to keep your lap from getting warm.
|Laptops with two screens|
Asus's Taichi might be in a category unto itself, and it is by far the craziest new machine to be previewed yet. It doesn't have just one screen, but two. Yes, the laptop (if you can even call it that) has a double-sided IPS display. Picture the outside lid of your laptop having a touch screen, and that's the Taichi. When the lid is closed, you can use the laptop like a tablet, and then when it's open you have the full keyboard and touchpad. But that's not all. The two screens can be used at the same time to do two totally different things, so someone can play a game on one side and on the other someone can surf the web. It is powered by Intel's third generation of Core processors and has a solid-state drive.
|Laptops with flippable screens|
The Lenovo Yoga was unveiled at CES in January, but it's another example of the crazy form factors on the way. The Yoga looks like a regular 13-inch Lenovo IdeaPad laptop even when you open it up. But keep pushing the touch screen back and it can flip over to the back of the laptop, folding up into a tablet of sorts. It's like laptop yoga. Get the name now? You can even stand it up like a tent or easel. It has a very comfortable chiclet keyboard and touchpad for when you decide to use it as a regular laptop.
|Tablets with Slide Out Keyboards|
Oh, yes, there is still another way to combine a tablet with a keyboard. MSI and Toshiba have started to demo Windows 8 sliders, which are tablets with a keyboard underneath. The keyboard slides out and then props up the tablet in one way or another to create a laptop of sorts. Toshiba hasn't revealed much about its slider, but MSI's S20 has an 11.6-inch display and Intel's third generation processors.